Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #26

August 3rd, 2009 by Wordsman


“Hey, what’s the matter?” Jack asked, slowing his pace so as not to lose Matthew.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Matthew lied.  “I’m just . . . tired.”

Jack gave him an unusually shrewd glance.  “Are you still upset about getting kicked out of the Colosseum?”

“You’re right,” Matthew replied sarcastically.  “I can see why you would think I had already forgotten about that, seeing as it happened all of two minutes ago.  Look, can we just sit down over here for a while?”

“Sure,” said Jack.  “We’ll rest for a second while you tell me all about this big white thing over here.”

“It’s the Arch of Constantine,” he said as he sat down on the grass.  “Dedicated to him for his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.”  Matthew was not in the mood for giving a lecture right then, but he could not help explaining such very basic information to his friend.

“Constantine,” Jack repeated thoughtfully.  He remained standing, his usual manic energy preventing him from doing something as lazy as sitting down for a few seconds.  “Where have I heard that name before?”

“He was Emperor of Rome,” Matthew said, leaning back and closing his eyes.  “The city of Constantinople was named after him.”

“No, that’s not it.  Oh!” Jack announced, struck by sudden inspiration.  “It was the title of that movie!”  Matthew made no response.  “Seriously, man, what’s with you?” Jack asked, standing over his friend and blocking the warm sunlight that had been streaming down onto his face.

Matthew sighed.  “It’s just . . . I’ve never been kicked out of a place before,” he answered.

“Haha!” Jack cried triumphantly.  “I knew it!”  Then he paused.  “Wait a sec.  That can’t be right.  I’ve been kicked out of plenty of places before when you were with me.”

“That’s true.”  The images of those incidents had been rotating through Matthew’s mind ever since they had been first grabbed by the guards.  “But technically, on every one of those occasions, it was only you that got thrown out.  I just decided to leave at the same time.”

Jack shrugged.  “You say potato, I say potahto.  I still don’t see what the big deal is.  So you got tossed out of the Colosseum.  It’s not like that’s going to be affecting you for the rest of your life.”

It could, Matthew thought darkly.  The guards had not bothered to take their names or check their passports, but he saw no reason why they couldn’t have recorded descriptions of the two of them and sent them on to all the other important sites in Rome.  For all he knew he had just earned himself a lifetime ban for every major attraction in one of the most historical cities in the world.  “I’ve always tried to live my life according to the rules,” he said.  He did not add, “Which is something that’s always been much more difficult with you around.”

Jack laughed.  “My Dad always said that if you never get chucked out of somewhere for breaking the rules, you’re not doing things right.”

“Hmm.”  Matthew had heard a lot about his friend’s father over the years.  He always wondered how the man had been able to go his whole life without ever being thrown in jail.  “It’s not just that I broke the rules,” he explained.  “It’s more that the whole thing was so stupid.  There was no reason to go down there,” he insisted, talking mostly to Jack but also somewhat to himself.

“That’s not true,” said Jack, sounding unusually serious.  “Jumping down there was a crazy risk that no one in their right mind would have taken.”  Matthew wanted to mention that that was exactly what he was trying to say, but his friend cut him off.  “And sometimes you have to do stupid things like that, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere and life just isn’t interesting.”

Matthew thought it was an intriguing paradox that he and Jack had been able to remain friends for so long despite the fact that their definitions of “interesting” were so radically different.  “Give me an example,” he said.  “And don’t just tell me another story about your father.”

Jack faltered, but he recovered quickly.  “Well, how about this Constantine guy right over here?” he asked, pointing to the arch as if it was the Emperor himself.  “You said he won the Battle of London Bridge or something like that, right?  I bet he had to take a pretty wild risk to do that.”

“I suppose he did,” Matthew said.  He opened his eyes and looked over at the arch.  “Constantine had all the momentum going in, because Maxentius had just been sitting in Rome and waiting for him, but some sources say that he was still outnumbered roughly two-to-one.”

“See?” said Jack, who seemed rather impressed that his random suggestion had panned out so well.  “If he hadn’t led his smaller army against this Maximilian guy, then he never would have gotten to be Emperor, right?”

“Actually, he already was an emperor.  Sort of.”  Matthew did not think he would gain anything from attempting to explain the complexities of the Tetrarchy to his friend.  “He was involved in a convoluted civil war for control of the entire Roman Empire.  And most reports, including this arch, say that he won by divine intervention.  So I don’t think his situation really compares to ours at all,” he said, standing and brushing the grass off of his pants.

“But . . . my example has inspired you to find the energy to move on anyway?” Jack asked, a little perplexed at his friend’s sudden revival.

“No,” Matthew answered, “but it has reminded me just how easy it is for you to get into a situation that you don’t understand.  Someone has to follow you around and protect you from yourself.”

“That’s the spirit!” Jack cried.  “Now, you wanna walk under the arch?”

“It’s fenced off.”

“But if we . . .”


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